Q: Now that I’m in my mid-20s, how can I help my mum understand I’m not a child anymore? She seems unwilling or unable to recognise that I’m now an adult. What can I do?
A: Many parents have difficulty allowing a son or daughter to separate from the parent-child relationship and move ahead into full adulthood. There can be any number of factors involved; for example, it’s often a significant issue in families with a history of marital conflict. The empty nest years can seem especially threatening to a woman who, for whatever reason, has been pouring her emotional energy into her children.
In that context, we’d suggest that trying to understand your mother’s viewpoint can be a good start. What might be motivating her to hang on to your childhood so tenaciously? That awareness can help inform a productive discussion as two adults.
Establishing healthy boundaries will require a degree of assertiveness on your part. As gently and lovingly as possible, let your mum know that you love her, but you need to start establishing more emotional independence. While she may initially feel rejected, she needs to understand and acknowledge that this is a normal part of anyone’s growth and maturation process.
Meanwhile, make sure that you’re not “enabling” your mother to keep you in a childlike role. If you count on your parents for financial support or allow your mum to do your laundry every weekend, you’re contributing to the problem. If you’re still living at home, this would be a good time to think about moving out and getting your own place.
Once out on your own, we would advise that you keep the lines of communication open and continue to be sensitive to your mum’s feelings. Ultimately, your relationship with her is more important than most disagreements.
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